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Library Orientation for Nursing

This information is focused toward nurses conducting research via the Emory Libraries

MeSH (Medical Subject Headings)

MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) is the National Library of Medicine's controlled vocabulary thesaurus, used for indexing articles for the PubMed and MEDLINE databases.

Biomedical subject specialists analyze the subject content of articles and use the Medical Subject Headings to describe the content of the article.  

The best way to search PubMed is to either just use keywords and allow the database to automatically map to the appropriate MeSH term OR search PubMed with BOTH keywords and MeSH terms.

How to Use MeSH

Use the MeSH Browser, an online vocabulary look-up aid, to build searches in PubMed, or just to look up medical terms to find out more about them.  You can build a search in the MeSH browser or copy and paste the terms into a search you're working on.

For instance, if you want to search 'cancer of the jaw', finding the MeSH term will help you narrow down your results.  The MeSH term that 'cancer of the jaw' maps to is "Jaw Neoplasms."

You can also use subheadings to group together those citations about a particular aspect of a subject. Check off the terms you want to search and add them to the PubMed Search Builder.  Click Search PubMed to complete the search.

To search for articles with Jaw Neoplasms as the main topic of an article, check the Restrict to MeSH Major Topic box.

Your term may fall under may be further subdivided into more specific terms, which you can click on and use in your search.  Use the "Do not include MeSH terms found below this term in the MeSH hierarchy" check box to search Jaw Neoplasms, but not articles specifically indexed with Mandibular, Maxillary or Palatal Neoplasms.

To do the search properly, you will need to add keywords to the MeSH terms to retrieve the most recent articles that may not have been fully indexed yet.

Adding MeSH to Demo Search

Adding MeSH to our search using Boolean, truncation, phrase searching and field descriptors finds about 400 citations in PubMed.  Only a few more than before, but these few citations may be crucial.